If I were to ask you what makes you happy, you may give two kinds of responses, ones that are profound and meaningful, and others that are a little more on the silly and temporal side. Meaningful would be things like: my spouse, my kids, because I’m so fulfilled with my work and calling, making people smile. Other simple responses may include: winning the lottery, your favourite team winning the stanley cup, your least favourite team losing the stanley cup, chocolate, etc.
Our quick responses are normally things that fall into our lap, not things we work hard for. A surprise cheque in the mail or winning the lottery are things we may not work for, but would definitely make us happy. But what if (true) Happiness cost you something? What if for you to be happy, you had to give or work or invest in…let’s say others?
Over the next few weeks at The Village we’re answering this question, ‘So you wanna be Happy?’ (add an ‘eh’ for us canadians) by looking at things like forgiveness, generosity, being present, etc.
Forgiveness isn’t simply something we receive, it is also something we offer. As we’ve been offered forgiveness in and through Jesus, he in turn invites us to pay it forward if you will. Forgiveness is such a wonderful gift that wouldn’t want to keep it to yourself.
How does forgiveness make us happy? We are all in desperate need of it, and God graciously offers it, so when our need matches God’s gift, we are…happy! You can use the word joy, or fulfilled, but no matter how you look at it, a forgiven person is a happier person. E hubbard says, “The ineffable joy of forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstasy that might well arouse the envy of the gods.” If you don’t believe me, check out this short video.
Even though science may prove it, Jesus actually shows it (gives it away).
In Matthew 26:28, Jesus says, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ Paul continues this theme in Colossians 1:13-14, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” And again in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption…the forgiveness of sins…with the riches of God’s grace…”
But we can’t ‘just’ be recipients – we are invited to be collaborators, contributors, conduits of this forgiveness. Jean Paul says, “Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness, or else forgiving others.”
One of the most beautiful stories of forgiveness is found early in the Old Testament. You can read it in Genesis 50:15-21. Jesus, when teaching us how to pray, tells us that forgiveness is both something we ask for, and something we offer. In Matthew 6 we read, “forgive us our depts, as we also forgive forgive our debtors…for if you forgive other people when the sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Lots to think about there. Our prayer should always go both ways – God forgive me…and help me to forgive others.
How many times should we forgive others? Jesus responds to Peter in Matthew 18 by saying, ’70×7′. Basically he says, if you’re counting, you’re not forgiving. Counting is only prolonging your judgement and/or revenge.
Hey, I’m with you, forgiveness is hard. It costs us something. It’s an investment. However, the returns are so much greater than the initial investment. True happiness is always going to cost us something. Forgiveness is one of the essential costs, of being happy, yes, but it’s also a characteristic of one who is following Jesus!
When we accuse others, we in turn are accused. Why? Because we are all in fault of something. NT Wright says, ‘Every time you forgive someone, you pass on a drop of water of the bucketful that God has already given you.’ As you inhale God’s forgiveness, make sure to exhale it to those who need to experience it from you.
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Small Group Questions:
Why do some people find it difficult to forgive themselves?
If you were to describe Jesus’ forgiveness for the world and for you personally, how would you communicate it?
How about forgiving others? Tough? Depends what they did? Any stories you’d like to share?
Jesus ties our forgiveness to how we can forgive others. Almost like a boomerang. One writer defined it as breathing in and breathing out. What do you think about this? Especially what Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15 and then again in Matthew 18.
When it comes to being happy or fulfilled or ‘joy’filled, how is forgiving others connected?